Agony Aunt

Patricia Marie, MBACP qualified counsellor is a member of The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, practising in Harley Street, Essex and Scotland. She has many years experience of dealing with domestic violence, relationship problems, bereavement, depression, addictions, post traumatic stress and many other emotional issues. If you have a dilemma, please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk

My dear friend found out a few months ago that she has cancer

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on Friday, 23 June 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

My dear friend found out a few months ago that she has cancer. In a few short months she has changed from a vibrant, feisty woman into a quiet, constantly complaining one.

When I visit her she spends the whole time telling me how hard her life now is, and how unfair it is that she has cancer. She nags her husband and barks out orders to him. She shows no interest in what is happening in my life at all. I try to entertain her with stories or offer to play cards with her, or take her out, but she does not want this.

I don't know what to do. I feel I have to push myself to visit her, and that makes me feel very sad as we used to be so very close, in saying this, I still very much want to be there for her.

Patricia Marie says...

When the threat of severe illness affects a loved one, it isn't always easy for family or friends to know how to deal with the situation. It is perfectly understandable that you are finding it hard to talk to your friend about her feelings and concerns, but if you can allow her to speak about what's making her angry, expressing her feelings may help her to feel better understood. It could be she is feeling anxious and hopeless, causing her to be irritable. She could resent you speaking about a way of life she may no longer have. For now, let your friend lead the conversation, and in time hopefully she will be better able to share your news.

A cancer diagnosis can cause doubts and uncertainty, and the future could seem suddenly dark and unpredictable, which can be very frightening and may cause your friend to feel she has lost control of her life. Empower her. Encourage her to decide what she thinks would make her situation more bearable. Perhaps you could both work together on accomplishing even the smallest realistic goals that could have a huge positive impact on the way she feels. It is also important for you to receive some help at this time. Do call the Macmillan Support Line, as their dedicated team are there to advise on ways to care for those suffering from cancer. Their knowledge and experience will give you a greater understanding of this brutal disease, and enable you to be more empathic of your friend's emotions.

You may have to accept that your friend is unable to be as she was, but the most valuable thing you can do for her now is simply be there for her and no matter how low her mood, continue to be the devoted friend you clearly are. Do remember, caring for someone with cancer is a strain, but it can be intensely rewarding and make one feel proud of finding the strength, courage and kindness to help a sufferer going through possibly the toughest battle of their life. Through your compassion you will experience the true value of what's important in life - both love and life itself.
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I feel like I am beginning to hate my newborn son

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 16 June 2017
Hello Patricia,

I'm sorry to bother you, but I just don't know what to do, and I am embarrassed to talk to my husband or friends. Six weeks ago I gave birth to my son. My husband and I have been trying for so long for me to become pregnant, and I had almost given up hope, and then suddenly my pregnancy test came out positive. We were over the moon, decorated the nursery, went out and bought all the nursery furniture, buggy, car seat, clothes and so on, and waited with eager anticipation for the day to come when I could hold my child in my arms. We had a few minor worries with the scans, and I did put on quite a lot of weight during pregnancy, but we were quite literally counting the days until he arrived.

But now he is here I just can't bond with him. He cries all the time, I am getting no sleep, my body looks saggy and flabby, and I actually feel I am beginning to hate him, which I know is a dreadful way to feel, and I could never explain that to anyone who knows me. And I am just so tired, keep bursting into tears for no reason, and can't cope with the fact I can't do anything as he is so demanding. I know it is taboo to say so, but I wish he had never been born. I don't want him anymore. I hate myself for thinking this way, and you are the only one who knows. I have family and friends I could turn to, but worry they will think me a failure. Please don't reply if you are going to judge me. I don't know where else to turn. If I tell the midwife, she will probably have him taken away from me and then everyone will hate me. Help me, please!

Patricia Marie says...

Do not apologise for seeking the help of which you are very much in need. Indeed, I am extremely saddened by your letter, and hope that I can enable you to see why you may be feeling the way you do. Commonly known as the 'baby blues', most women feel emotional and overwhelmed after experiencing childbirth and becoming a parent, particularly when having to cope with new demands on both their time and attention, as well as getting little sleep. However, this wouldn't normally last for more than a few weeks. Nevertheless, Post Natal Depression (PND), which I believe is what you are suffering from, is when there are intense feelings of unhappiness, lasting for weeks or months, and a difficult struggle to bond with the baby. Whilst this must be extremely upsetting for you, please remember, you are not alone. In fact, around 1 in 10 new mothers suffer from this, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. PND, is an illness that often requires treatment, therefore, I urge you to seek professional assistance as soon as possible. Your GP, will not judge or criticise, but want to help you and discuss a treatment plan for your recovery. You could be offered counselling, antidepressants, or a combination of both. Your health visitor too, is there to support you and could offer solutions to assist your crying baby.

There are ways you can help yourself, such as taking baby for walks in the fresh air, which is an enjoyable form of exercise and should lighten your mood. Ensure you sleep when you can, eat healthily, and also, do try to open up to your family and friends. After all, a problem shared, really is a problem halved. Bear in mind too, that every new mum has issues around their post-baby body, so please stop being so hard on yourself. In time you can get back into shape, but for now your priority is getting the appropriate help so you can start to embrace motherhood. Once you begin to feel better, and you will, I recommend you join one of the many mother and baby classes available, where you won't feel so isolated, as you would be able to share any fears or anxieties with other new mums who are experiencing similar - and your little one would have great fun making friends too. I feel by receiving the help and support you deserve will make a huge difference to the way you are feeling. Hopefully you will soon begin to see yourself not as a failure, but be proud to have created a beautiful baby son who you will go on to very much enjoy and cherish forever.
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I recently moved to a small village and I'm worried I might become lonely

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 09 June 2017
Hello Patricia Marie,

I have recently moved away from London to a new area, 150 miles from where I have lived my whole life. I now live in a lovely little home in a small village community, as I wanted to get away from the rat race of life. My problem is, I had imagined that once I'd moved in, the neighbours would be popping round, and I would chat to people in the street, and that I would easily make new friends. However the opposite has happened. My nearest neighbour seems a grouchy moaner, who merely stared at me when I tried to introduce myself, the people I meet in the street have no interest in striking up conversation, and not one person has come round to welcome me into the area. In fact I feel I am most unwelcome and an outsider.

I feel very low as I really had expected this move to give me the peace and tranquility I have always desired, but all I now feel is ostracism and unfriendliness. I do not have the money to move again, in fact I am struggling financially, but having to consider that this may be my only option as I am worried how lonely I am going to become if I stay.

Patricia Marie says...

I am not surprised you are feeling lonely living in a new area with no friends or family nearby. However, I do feel you need to give yourself more time to adapt to your new home and surroundings. Of course it's important for everyone to have a good support network, and this will happen - just not overnight. However, you can make some good contacts straight away.

Get out and about, look for groups, clubs or societies in your area where you can become involved in your passions. You could also volunteer for a local charity or church group. Helping is a great way to meet others, to counteract loneliness and to feel connected. If you are able to work, perhaps look for a local job where you could make new friends, and earn some money too. Also, do consider getting a dog, which would not only offer great companionship, but dogs provide a neutral topic for conversation and, therefore, act as social 'ice-breakers.'

Just as you feel the outsider in your neighbourhood, established residents can often feel threatened by newcomers, so why not take the initiative. Be hospitable, perhaps organise a coffee morning, or an evening drinks party. Send invitations to your neighbours, saying you would love to meet them, be able to get to know them properly and look forward to welcoming them into your new home.

Rather than put any pressure on yourself at this moment, give yourself a good year before making any decisions on moving again. I believe during this time you would have made friends and settled in well, and most importantly be enjoying your home which you say you love. Finally, try not to lose sight of the fact that you are at the start of a new adventure in your life and need to cherish the experience whatever the outcome.
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My daughter aged 13, died 6 months ago and now she's no longer here, I feel lonely and abandoned

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 26 May 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

I don't know what to do, or where to go for help. I keep having panic attacks, and can't go on feeling this way for much longer. My daughter aged 13, died 6 months ago, after suffering a devastating degenerative condition. She gave me the greatest purpose in life, and now she's no longer here, I feel lonely and abandoned. When my daughter was alive, I received much support from my family and friends.

However, since she's been gone, I have hardly any understanding from my close ones. In fact, if I mention my daughter, the conversation soon changes, leaving me feeling frustrated and tearful. I am lucky to have another child, and a caring husband, but he gets annoyed with me for expecting too much from people. I am very close to my mother, but as soon as I mention my daughter, she becomes extremely upset, so I withdraw from opening up about my feelings. Can I please ask you, am I wrong for expecting others to be there for me?

Patricia Marie says...

The loss of a child is the most devastating experience a parent can face, and you should not be expected to 'get over' the pain it causes at any stage.
For 13 years you took care of your daughter who was totally dependant on you, and as you so rightly say, gave you a purpose. I make a heartfelt request to you to see that your purpose as a mother still goes on with your living child.

Let me ask you not to see your husband as annoyed, nor your friends as lacking compassion. It's not uncommon for friends to pull away during a grieving period, simply because they often do not know what to say. Have you considered that they could be feeling guilty if they have children who are all alive and well? They may well want to help, but don't know how. Tell them what you need, and don't push your husband away, as he too is having to deal with his own grief, as indeed is your mother who seems to be struggling to come to terms with the loss of her granddaughter. Your quarrel is not with them, but with what life has thrown at you - taking your beautiful daughter from you. Whilst you have every right to feel angry, by expressing it to others, you will only be hurting yourself.

Counselling won't bring your daughter back. Nothing will. But it will allow you to explore the feelings that you are clearly needing and wanting to express. Grief can feel very lonely, even when your loved ones are close. I think you would benefit greatly from attending a bereavement group, as sharing your sorrow with others who are going through similar experiences could be comforting, and will help you to feel understood. And I urge you to see your G.P for help with your panic attacks.

When you are feeling lonely and wanting to feel close to your daughter, perhaps light a candle and enjoy those special memories you have - which can never be taken from you.
Your life is forever changed - but it's not over. You must feel at this moment that you won't ever recover from your loss, but be patient, and allow yourself time to heal. I believe with the right help and support, you may begin to find a way forward that acknowledges and continues to incorporate the love you will always feel for your daughter.

Cruse offer bereavement support groups in most areas: 0844 477 9400 www.cruse.org.uk 
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I'm worried what will happen when I can't look after myself

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 19 May 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

I am 72 years of age, have no children or partner, and becoming increasingly concerned about what will happen when I can no longer look after myself in my own home. My closest friends have pre-deceased me, and I feel so very alone in this life. I do not know how to go about selling my home, sorting through all my possessions and perhaps moving into a care home. The thought of all of this scares me witless. As my health seems to be deteriorating lately this has been a recurrent anxiety for me. Do you know of any organisations who could help guide me through the process?

Patricia Marie says...

I can fully understand the anxiety you have with regards to making future plans, however, what really saddens me is the loneliness you have been suffering. Your friends have sadly passed, but you are very much here, and need to be enjoying your later years.

Age UK, the largest UK's charity, is dedicated to helping those of mature years. They provide information, support and advice to help get through those difficult times the elderly can experience. Whether you're wanting help regarding property matters, have concerns about the possibility of going into a care home, or having trouble sorting benefits, this charity can assist with all your practical worries. Furthermore, they can put you in touch with your local branch, who could organise for you to join in some of their regular social gatherings, where you could meet others who are in a similar situation to yourself, and hopefully you will soon be able to fully embrace the next chapter of your life, with new found friends.

I also recommend The Silver Line. This free help line was established by Esther Rantzen who wrote about loneliness after the death of her husband in 2002. She described loneliness among the elderly as a "creeping enemy which erodes confidence" and wanted to offer a telephone friendship service for the lonely elderly. This charity organisation provides friendship 24 hours a day, and could organise a befriender to call you regularly - so you would always have someone there for you. Please don't distress yourself any further. Make these calls - the help you are desperately seeking is only a phone call away.

Age UK: 0800 169 6565. Available every day from 8am-7pm. (www.ageuk.org.uk)

The Silver Line: 0800 4 70 80 90. Available 24 hours. (www.the silverline.org.uk)
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